Lady Bird

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA15+Lady Bird

Directed and Written by: Greta Gerwig

Produced by: Scott Rudin, Eli Bush, Evelyn O’Neil

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges.

We’ve all been there – growing up, becoming a teenager, trying to find your own identity whilst also trying to deal with so many pressures that seem insurmountable when you’re only 17. It’s the age when events conspire to seem like the biggest tragedy, provoke the most embarrassment or the deepest emotion, without any sign of how to get beyond them.

So it is for Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, played with intense believability by Saoirse Ronan, who is trying to find her sense of self while living in Sacramento, California during 2002.

She constantly clashes with her mother Marion (the outstanding Laurie Metcalf), who is a prickly, bossy woman with a life full of pressures and stresses her daughter barely glimpses or understands.

These two are so alike yet they can’t see it: opinionated, emotional and yearning for something beyond their ordinary existence.

Writer Greta Gerwig in her directorial debut said that this mother-daughter relationship is the love story of the film, and this relationship is what resonates far more deeply than the daughter’s awkward dalliances with two boys.

The opening scene shows us Lady Bird and Marion both sighing with deeply shared emotion after listening to an audio book during a long car ride, an experience that draws them closer together, yet within moments a carelessly expressed comment leads to a huge misunderstanding and a reckless reaction.

This scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie, with numerous situations between the mother who loves but cannot communicate with her daughter without provoking a backlash, and the daughter who in her turn feels misunderstood and unwanted.

The director aimed to have each of these people be “painfully failing to reach each other”, an aim that is convincingly and realistically achieved.

Gerwig’s skill allows the audience to cringe in shared dismay at each new outburst, seeing it coming and wondering why Lady Bird and her mother can’t help themselves or learn from their earlier mistakes.

The director succeeds in making the film “frothy and exciting like waves breaking on a beach”, followed closely by “a sudden undertow…and before you know it, you are in much deeper waters than you expected.”

This is exactly how it felt watching “Lady Bird” – one moment you’re laughing at the silly things and situations the main character experiences, and then the whole mood changes and things get serious when moments of amity are quickly shattered by a thoughtless or misconstrued comment.

Lady Bird also struggles to be one of the cool, sophisticated kids at school, ashamed of her family’s working class roots.

She falls madly in love with boys because she hungers to be in love more so than with an actual person.

She lies to find acceptance with the cool gang at school.

Her experiments with fashion, alcohol, drugs and music all reflect her constant drive to discover who she is (hence her rejection of her birth name in favour of the more exotic “Lady Bird”).

Her struggles and relationships with her family, best friend and assorted acquaintances are often depicted with humour, reflected by the audience’s gentle laughter at her predictable reactions, behaviour and affectations.

Her friendship with a girl at her school (Julie, played by Beanie Feldstein) is particularly sweet, showing how teenagers often view the world naïvely.

What was particularly moving about this film was how little people learn from their mistakes, repeating them in astonishing variations even when they gain some wisdom.

There is no happy ending, no neat resolution with all forgiven, just an ever-evolving awareness, hard-won maturity and an appreciation of one’s childhood home and family, just like real life.

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA+THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Written and Directed by: Martin McDonagh

Produced by: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Martin McDonagh

Executive Producers: Bergen Swanson, Diarmuid McKeown, Rose Garnett, David
Kosse, Daniel Battsek

Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Peter
Dinklage, Lucas Hedges, John Hawkes, Caleb Landry Jones, Sandy Martin.

Not since 1986 have I applauded out loud, in a packed cinema, for a movie that blew me away with the dynamic force of its female lead and its nuanced emotional and moral rollercoaster, of great cinematic story.

Eight years ago, English/Irish, playwright/filmmaker, Martin McDonagh, wrote Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in one single draft.  A third film after the slow burning cult success of, In Bruges and the darkly twisted, Seven Psychopaths.

The narrative tightrope of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is taut and confronting, pathos rich, in equal parts both tragic and hilariously funny.

Within ten minutes you will think you have sized up all the characters but you will be completely unprepared for what McDonagh does next.

The story opens with Mildred (Frances McDormand) her terrible grief has no tears left as she stands beneath three newly pasted billboards, billboards she has hired, billboards that witnessed the rape, murder and torching of her teenage daughter Angela, seven months earlier.

Since then there have been no arrests and the local police department have no leads.

Unable to accept the paralysis of her grief and fueled by fury, Mildred embodies the fight or die quality of a lone cowboy making a last stand against the local police and emblazons what must be the largest victim of violence impact statement and directs its lethal force at the town’s much loved, Chief of Police, Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson).

Raped while dying
And still no arrests?
How come Chief Willoughby?

There is no word for the place that Mildred is left in the English language as the parent of a dead child.

When a child loses a parent, they are an orphan. When a parent loses a child, there is no word.

Mildred’s relentless rage, blows apart the small town, minding-everyone’s-business, complicit charm of Ebbing, Missouri.

When shooting Three Billboards, McDormand to intensify the combative fury and isolation she would bring to the screen and her fellow cast, McDormand kept herself isolated, only seeing the cast at shooting.

And it worked.

McDormand is simply outstanding in this role. Simply dressed in one commando-like-overall with barely no facial expression, her seething and impact are latent and volatile and you just know that her lethal cocktail of fury, grief and a sense that justice has not been served, will suffer no prisoners.

In a quote worthy scene, Mildred strides into the Police Station – her town popularity at the bottom of the heap, oblivious to a herd of police mulling about, she calls out to Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) – a cop we’ve already sized up as the worst kind – a cop that is racist, stupid and armed.

‘Hey fuckhead!’ says Mildred.
‘What?’ says Dixon.
‘Don’t say what, Dixon, when she comes in calling you fuckhead’ says a Policeman.

McDonagh’s script is peppered, rich with racial taboos, social taboos, humanity. His characters, dark in pathos, humour and humanity. As a master storyteller, McDonagh’s skill is in serving up humour as a cathartic release after scenes heavy in tragic sadness.

Dixon tells Mildred, they don’t do “n– — r torturing” no more but “persons-of- color torturing”.

In a packed cinema we gasp together, in horror at Dixon’s racism and in a packed cinema, we laugh out loud, together at his stupidity.

The power of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is in its straightforward truths.

There are no ambiguous wonderings. We are served a plate full of raw humanity and we love it. We recognize the truth of our shared humanity, all our shades of despair, rage, tragedy and ultimately our ability to use humour from that dark place to release tenderness, hope and redemption.